Not only did the championship game pit two teams that could very well end up battling each other for High Desert League and Northern 4A prep baseball supremacy, but the game went down to the wire in fine fashion.
Reno used a four-run sixth inning to take its first lead and held off Spanish Springs’ answer in the top the seventh to take away an 8-7 victory.
After trouncing McQueen 12-2 in five innings earlier in the day to advance to the championship, the Cougars jumped out early against the Huskies and never trailed until the bottom of the sixth when things began to unravel.
Tim Epker relieved starting pitcher Alex Vetter at the start of the inning for Spanish Springs. Vetter was in line for the win after leaving with a 5-4 lead through five innings.
Reno starting pitcher Alex Gray-bar welcomed Epker to the game by helping his own cause with a double just inside the third-base line.
No. 9 hitter Austin Wood dropped down a sacrifice bunt, but Epker’s throw to first was off the mark, allowing the tying run to come home. Wood took second on the play.
Epker settled down and recorded the next two outs and was seemingly out of the jam until Pat Gallagher reached on an infield single.
Anthony Hascheff dropped in a lazy line drive to center field, driving in the go-ahead run for a 6-5 lead. Epker walked Trevor McElroy to load the bases and then proceeded to bean Scott Borsum and walk Taylor Williamson to force in a pair of runs.
Despite trailing 8-5 with only one out left, the Cougars were full of fight.
Gallagher took over mound duties for Graybar after Justin Agliolo laced a two-out double and pinch runner Brycen Erdody scored on Tanner Oates’ RBI single.
However, Gallagher didn’t have immediate success as Humberto Espinoza dumped a single into shallow right field and Davis Murphy followed with a high-chopping infield single. Murphy’s hit plated Oates, cutting the deficit to 8-7, but Gallagher brought some heat and ended the game with a strikeout.
“Love these guys. Really love these guys,” SSHS assistant coach Ben Hofmann said. “They will battle inside and out. Two outs and nobody on, we get the tying run to second base and the go-ahead run to first, you can’t fault that. Without that great play in center field (by Reno’s Nick Bietz for the second out), we might still be playing.”
Spanish Springs jumped out to a 3-0 lead after a half inning thanks in part to Espinoza’s two-run single. Espinoza had three hits and three RBIs against Reno. Oates also had three hits in the loss.
The Huskies answered right back in the bottom half of the first. The first three hitters all reached safely to load the bases. Hascheff was hit by a pitch and Borsum singled to make it a 3-2 game.
After Reno tied it at 3-3 on an RBI base hit by Zack Nyman in the second inning, run-scoring singles by Agliolo and Espinoza in the third pushed the gap back up to two runs, 5-3. That was as good as it got for the visitors.
Borsum drove in three runs for the Huskies.
These two teams will meet again Thursday for their league opener.
Spanish Springs (4-1) hosts Thursday’s single game at 3:45 p.m.
“Really in any sport, playing any team four times in a week is a pretty tough task,” Hofmann said. “They are a good ball club. They really are. They are well coached. They play hard. They’ve got guys who can run, a couple guys with pop. It’s going to be a challenge...I like our chances. I like our guys. I know they’re going to battle from top to bottom.”
•In the early game Saturday, the Cougars dominated behind the pitching of Jake Bray. Bray faced the minimum three hitters in three of the five innings, while giving up single runs in the first and fourth frames. He also doubled in a run at the plate.
Agliolo was 3-for-3 with two RBIs, and Espinoza had a triple and single to go along with three RBIs. Brandon Mathis also knocked in a trio of runs with a single and two sacrifice flies.
On the hill, Bray gave up four hits and two earned runs while striking out four. He also walked a pair.